A most satisfying drama at the Playhouse
0 Comments · Monday, May 12, 2014
North Pool leads you down a circuitous path.
More than once you’ll think you know what’s behind this conversation and where
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:13 AM | Permalink
There are quite a few good options for theatergoing this weekend. First and foremost, I'd point to The North Pool at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a newish script from Rajiv Joseph (his play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
was a runner up for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize), and it's a very timely
piece, set in 2007 in a large public high school. Just two characters: a
slightly disgruntled, tightly wound vice principal and a student of
Middle Eastern descent who's been called in on the eve of spring break
for a "conversation." What starts out as awkward but mildly amusing
takes numerous twists and turns (the show is about 85 minutes long) and
will keep you guessing as more and more is revealed. The teacher says
people are like onions: You can keep peeling, but you never quite get
down to the essence. You will arrive at a surprising — and moving —
conclusion, likely not what you'll be suspecting. That's the kind of
writing and performance to be found in this production. Through June 1. Tickets ($30-$75; $25 for teens and students, with the proviso that the show has strong language and mature themes): 513-421-3888.
For lighter entertainment, I recommend Size Matters
at Ensemble Theatre. It's a premiere by actor Raymond McAnally, who
performs the one-man show. He's a big guy in the theater, literally: 300 pounds. plus. He's used his weight to his advantage to find acting gigs,
but he tends to be typecast — fat slobs, geeks and so on. Not great for
self-esteem, but hey, it's work. However, it can wear on one's
confidence, and when he sees his young nephew going down a similar path,
well, it's food for thought. There's nothing terribly profound about
this script, but McAnally is a very adept performer — he takes on the
roles of his father, his nephew, even his wife, with the assistance of
projections and sound effects. McAnally says that this is 95 percent
material drawn from real life, and it has the ring of truth. It's not
likely that this show will be produced elsewhere unless McAnally does it
himself, so here's a chance to see a one-of-a-kind performance that
will keep you laughing and make you like a guy you might have otherwise
dismissed. Through May 25. Tickets ($39-$43; half-price and $15 student rush tickets starts two hours prior to show time if seating is available): 513-421-3555.
Cincinnati Music Theater opens its production of the classic musical Peter Pan at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater tonight (it runs through May 17).
This top-notch community theater typically does a commendable job with
big musicals, and this family-friendly piece is likely to be a big
attraction, what with flying and local actor Joshua Steele in the title
role. Tickets ($20-$24): 513-621-2782.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
If you're looking for a show that will get things going romantically,
I'll point you to the Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Venus in Fur (onstage through May 17).
But be careful what you wish for: You might end up like
playwright/director Thomas with your hands full of more than you wanted
to take on. He's seeking an actress to play the central role in his
adaptation of an erotic Victorian novel. Vanda shows up for an audition,
none too promising at first, but the tables turn very quickly. This is a
funny and provocative script, and Greta Wohlrabe's performance as Vanda
is masterful and highly entertaining. I gave it a Critic's Pick.
Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
something completely different — and in a venue I bet you've never
visited — head to Bellevue, Ky., to St. John United Church of Christ
(520 Fairfield Ave.) for a bare-bones, church-basement production of Joe
Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead by WIT-Women in
Theatre. The group is focused on plays for and about women, and this one
touches on a lot of issues when two women without much in common end up
spending an unwilling evening together, stuck in an airport lounge due
to bad weather. They cover a lot of territory — imperfect marriages,
ungrateful children, fears, beliefs and politics (they're at opposite
ends of the spectrum). Their ups and downs are a bit forced, but
actresses Cat Cook and Cate White do solid jobs portraying two very
different women. It's a tad like a movie of the week on the Lifetime
channel, but there's some entertaining writing. This is the second and
final weekend. Word has it that Friday night is pretty full, but Saturday
(thanks to the Kentucky Derby) has plenty of seats available. Tickets
($15, discounted by $5 if you bring a piece of luggage bigger than a
If you've seen Shakespeare's 37 other plays, tonight is the night for you to catch the one you've missed: The Two Noble Kinsmen
opens at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, the final script by the Bard
that gives the company bragging rights to be one of only five theaters
in the U.S. to stage every one of his plays. You can read more about
this one, as well as Cincy Shakes, which is marking its 20th anniversary
in my cover story in this week's issue. See it before it closes on May 25: Two Noble Kinsmen is rarely onstage, and Shakespeare fans are coming from all over North America to see this production. Tickets ($22-$35): 513-381-2273, x1.
Finishing up this weekend are runs of the musical Gypsy at the Covedale (513-241-6550) and Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way (513-300-5669).
Playhouse production provides revenge — Goddess-style
0 Comments · Sunday, April 27, 2014
David Ives' 2010 play combines revenge with a lot of prickly dialogue — contemporary, crude, literate and historic — and some flat-out funny moments.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:12 AM | Permalink
There's ample evidence at the Cincinnati Playhouse as to why David Ives' Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur
is the most produced script in America this season. I saw the opening
performance last evening, and it's an entertaining attention-grabber.
Inspired by an erotic Victorian novel, it's the story of a playwright
who's adapted it for the stage but despairing of finding the right
actress — until Vanda appears. Despite the initial impression she makes,
she proves to be almost too good to be true. Greta Wohlrabe is a marvel
in this role, flipping between being an ambitious, over-enthused
wannabe and a commanding, demanding, sophisticated paramour who knows
the character she wants to play and how to get what she wants. It's sexy
and funny — and a great evening for grown-ups. Through May 17. Tickets ($30-$75): 513-421-3888.
Want to try something new this weekend? A new theater company, Women in Theatre (WIT) is staging Joe Calarco's Walter Cronkite Is Dead
at St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Two women stuck in
an airport together end up sharing a table: One, from Washington, D.C.,
is reserved and educated, yearning for peace and quiet; the other is a
chatty Southerner who can't stop talking. Their conversation, according to
the show's publicity, is "funny, difficult, deeply revealing and
astonishingly frank." Through May 3. Tickets: 859-441-6882.
Stacy Sims, my CityBeat colleague, thought that New Edgecliff Theatre's production of Other People's Money was
pretty good. (CityBeat review here.) Jerry Sterner's 1989 play remains timely, the story of a
rapacious business guy who stands to destroy a small town when he buys a
company that is pretty much the sole livelihood of the residents of a
small Rhode Island town. Stacy called the show "good entertainment" and
added, "it just might provoke you to consider whom you are listening to
today." It's onstage at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater through Saturday evening.
Stacy liked Know Theatre's production of The Twentieth-Century Way enough to give it a Critic's Pick in her CityBeat
review here. It's two actors playing two actors in 1914 who are hired to
play gay men in Long Beach and entrap "social vagrants" — that is, gay
men. It's a multi-leveled script, playing with concepts of what's real
and what's "enacted." Heady but fascinating, and it features two
excellent actors, Jens Rasmussen and Michael McKeough. You won't be
bored if you go to see this one. Through May 3. Tickets ($15 in advance; $20 at the door): 513-300-5669.
Two productions that will appeal to audiences who like old-fashioned theater remain onstage. With its final performance on Sunday, Mary Chase's gentle comedy, Harvey,
at the Carnegie in Covington, is about Elwood, a guy who's a little
off-kilter — who sees a six-foot-tall white rabbit that no one else
believes is real (except the audience). Tickets ($17-$24); 859-957-1940. The classic musical Gypsy — full of great show tunes — continues at the Covedale through May 4;
it's about Rose, the pushy stage mother who launched her rather
unwilling daughter into a burlesque career as Gypsy Rose Lee. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 11:24 AM | Permalink
There are several good theater choices south of the Ohio River this weekend.The theater (and dance) program at Northern Kentucky University presents a truly varied array of programming — this season has included a play by Orson Welles, the legendary musical South Pacific, Shakespeare's As You Like It and more. The academic year's final production Monty Python's Spamalot, opened last evening, and it seems to be a perfect vehicle for a lot of onstage clowning. (In case you haven't been tuned in, the show is subtitled "A musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and many of the show's most hilarious moments are reproduced wholesale onstage.) But clowning can be serious work, and if you catch NKU's production, pay attention to the choreography (the work of NKU grad Roderick Justice) which is complex, amusing and very well executed by the cast of 25. Director Ken Jones keeps things moving; the actors get into the tomfoolery from start to finish, especially Kat Moser as the diva who's the Lady of the Lake and Bradley Goren as long-suffering Patsy (he's the one who clicks the coconut shells to simulate King Arthur riding on horseback, among other amusing moments). The show is a fine entertainment, if you're a fan of the low but articulate humor of the Python troupe. Through April 27. Tickets ($8-$14): 859-572-5464.Comedy of an entirely different sort is available at another Kentucky venue, the Carnegie in Covington, where Mary Chase's 1945 Pulitzer Prize winner Harvey is available through April 27. This is a piece of gentle humor from the past, about a slightly off-kilter guy who sees a six-foot-plus rabbit — he calls it a "pooka" — named Harvey, much to the dismay of several family members who are embarrassed by his behavior. Their efforts to get him committed to a local asylum go awry to much merriment and a message about being, well, gentle and sweet. This is good, old-fashioned fun. Tickets: 859-957-1940.If you prefer a well-written contemporary drama, this weekend is your last chance to see A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Anna Ziegler's new show (this is its world premiere) is a memory play that explores an unexpected chain of events triggered by a love triangle. It's beautifully staged by Michael Evan Haney with a cast of three actors who are just right for each of their roles. I gave this one a Critic's Pick when it opened; it's as good as anything I saw recently at the much-respected Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Tickets ($30-$80): 513-421-3888.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 08:17 AM | Permalink
If you follow music coverage in CityBeat (hey, isn't that really why you pick up the paper?), you're certainly aware of Green Day's 2004 recording American Idiot.
But since you're reading my weekend theater previews, you must be
interested in other kinds of performance, so here's a tip: For two nights
only, Green Day's American Idiot, a stage version of the powerful Punk score, will be onstage at the Aronoff. That's right — Friday and Saturday
only, just three performances, much shorter that Broadway in
Cincinnati's two-week presentation of touring Broadway musicals. I can
vouch for this one, since I saw it a year ago during a similar tour stop
in Dayton. It's the story of three disaffected guys who take different downward
spirals when confronted with the numbing boredom of everyday life —
"alien nation" — as they sing in the opening number. The recording was
conceived as a "Punk Rock Opera" and turned into a Tony Award-nominated
Broadway show in 2010, with a lot of involvement by Green Day's lead
singer Billie Joe Armstrong (who actually appeared onstage in New York
at various performances; that's not happening here in Cincinnati).
There's a day-of-performance lottery for a limited number of $25
tickets; you need to show up two-and-a-half hours before the performance
you're hoping to see (8 p.m. Friday, and 5 and 8 p.m. on Saturday)
with a valid photo ID. Complete an entry form and wait 30 minutes to
find out if you're a winner. If you prefer to just go ahead and buy your
seats ($38-$91), you can call the Aronoff box office: 513-621-2787.
In the classic musical Gypsy,
Rose has very concrete ideas regarding how to turn her daughters into
stars (long before Green Day was punking out, to be sure): Back in the
1920s and ’30s she pushed her kids onto vaudeville stages whether they
liked it or not. Things never went quite as she imagined, which was
really a desire for her own fame and stardom. It's one of the great
musicals, and the role of Rose has been compared to King Lear. That
might be a bit of a stretch, but she's a tragic character who's
fascinating to watch. There's a ton of great music, composed by Jule
Styne with lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and lots of humor
along the way, especially the hilarious number by three strippers, "You
Gotta Get a Gimmick." Cincinnati Landmark opened its production Thursday
night, and it will be onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing
Arts through May 4. Tickets ($21-$24): 513-241-6550.
Mary Chase's comedy Harvey
won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize and had a four-year Broadway run (1,800
performances). The story of Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible friend, a 6-foot tall rabbit named Harvey, is perhaps best known for the 1950
movie featuring Jimmy Stewart in an Oscar-nominated performance. That's
all well and good, but it's a show that audiences love to see live and
in-person, and you can do just that at Covington's Carnegie for the next
three weekends (tonight through April 27).
It's directed by Buz Davis, who produced shows at the Carnegie when it
was a dilapidated wreck back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now he's returning to
stage Harvey in the beautifully renovated Otto M. Budig Theatre.
(Tickets ($17-$24): 859-957-1940.) Davis has assembled a strong cast for this family-friendly comedy, you
can catch a few of them in this charming promotional video:Still onstage are several recommended productions: The Mountaintop at Ensemble Theatre (final extended performance is Saturday evening; 513-421-3555); A Delicate Ship at the Cincinnati Playhouse (through April 20; 513-421-3888; CityBeat review here); and The Twentieth-Century Way at Know Theatre (through May 3; CityBeat review here.) And if Monday comes and you want still more: Check out True Theatre's next installment — True Dating (7:30 p.m.
at Know Theatre). This round of monologues of real experiences will
feature stories of dating that led to true love, and some that went off
the tracks along the way. Tickets ($15): 513-300-5669.
by Rick Pender
Posted In: Theater
at 03:18 PM | Permalink
Theatre’s Humana Festival is indeed a launching pad for exciting new works.
That makes its final weekend the perfect moment for the American Theatre
Critics Association to recognize a set of outstanding plays produced at
regional theaters during 2013. None of the 2013 Humana Festival shows was
nominated, but one of the three works to win a significant cash prize ($7,500)
was Martín Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun, given its
world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park last fall. The play
blends magical realism and political issues in an affecting tale examining if
forgiveness is truly possible. Set in a Central American nation ravaged by
civil war, lust, plague and a consuming need for vengeance, it’s about a
widowed doctor in a small village and a newly-married soldier charged with
subduing dissent. Their journeys towards redemption converge in some painful
prize ($25,000) went to Lauren Gunderson for her play I and You, about a cranky
high school student who needs a liver transplant. A smart, athletic classmate
recruits her to help him finish a school project focused on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. As their unlikely
relationship evolves, they explore the meaning of life and death without a
shred of condescension or pretentiousness. I
and You was staged last October at Marin Theatre Company in California,
where Jasson Minadakis, who founded Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, is now
artistic director and nurtured the development of Gunderson’s script. Her play Toil & Trouble was presented locally
last summer by Know Theatre.
Playhouse world premiere brings another excellent new play and writer to Cincinnati audiences
0 Comments · Friday, March 28, 2014
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park hit a home run with its world
premiere of Anna Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship on the Shelterhouse